Special perks for the Duke of Cambridge. Who but Prince William gets a year’s paternity leave?

Independent on Sunday, 15 September 2013

He is taking a year off at a time when millions of people are struggling to hold on to their jobs

Here is a piece of “breaking news”: a man has left his job. He did his last shift five days ago, and is thinking about what to do next. He is going to think about it for 12 months and an entire troupe of people will follow him on our behalf, bringing us “live” updates. These will consist mostly of someone standing outside an imposing building, using lots of high-sounding words such as “duty” and “public service”. So hats off to whoever wrote this headline in Friday’s Daily Mirror: “Prince William has left the RAF – but we’re none the wiser on what the future holds for him”.

I don’t know if I’m right in detecting a hint of irritation towards another royal non-story, but elsewhere correspondents were doing their best. Lack of hard information has never stopped royal reporters leaping for bones thrown by the Windsor family, and then rushing back to newsrooms with their tails wagging. William is said to have embarked on a “transitional year” which will allow him to “focus on royal duties” while “keeping his options open” and doing a bit of charity work. (Note to the unemployed: you might want to use that line about keeping your options open next time you’re asked why you haven’t found a job.)

Monarchists always say I’ve overlooked how much time the royals spend on official engagements. So I’ve looked it up: Prince William carried out 88 engagements last year and the figure isn’t expected to increase much until he becomes a “full-time working royal”. That’s roughly one every four days, which doesn’t seem very onerous to me, but then my idea of work is different from that of the royals.

Incidentally, his wife has been described as “on maternity leave”, which makes me wonder about her job description. On leave from what? Is “duchess” a full-time position? That’s another one to try at the Jobcentre.

Almost every “news” story featuring the Royal Family is a combination of non-event and smart PR, with a bit of celebrity gossip thrown in. The usual standards of journalism don’t apply, leaving us ignorant about the Windsors’ finances, politics and influence.

The Government is so worried about the political bias displayed in Prince Charles’s letters to ministers that the Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, has blocked publication of even a tiny sample; he fears disclosure would damage Charles’s future role as king. This is one of the few royal “stories” worthy of the name, but all we get most of the time is guff about how hard it is for the poor royals to balance “duties” and private life.

So here is the real news: Prince William is taking a year off at a time when millions of people are struggling to hold on to their jobs, if they have one, and pay their bills. It’s another example of breath-taking self-indulgence within the ranks of the Royal Family, but most royal correspondents would stand on their heads rather than say so.

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